Adventures in Wonderland

.......not just a travel blog

My Photo
Location: Canada

In our sixties, with apparently no other authentic option, my husband Don and I sold our car and apartment, sold or gave away all our stuff, and set off to discover the world. And ourselves. We started in Italy in 2011 and from there have travelled to Spain, India, Bali, etc. - you can see the blog archive. We will continue travelling until it's time to stop - if that time ever comes. So far it suits us very well. We are interested in how the world works, how life works, how the creation of experience works, how the mind works. As we travel and both "choose" our course, and at the same time just let it unfold, we discover the "mechanics" of life, the astounding creativity of life, and a continual need to return to trust and presence. Opening the heart, and acceptance of what is, as it is, are keystones for us both.

Friday, February 24, 2012

Tiruvannamalai, India. Part 4

We walked around Mt Arunachala with Ram and Bhakti, on the inner path. The outer path is on the road, all the way around the mountain. The inner path is higher up, and is a track through the bush, away from the noise and busyness of the streets. This inner path goes about two-thirds around the mountain, then you come to the town and back into mayhem again. We left early (7am) and walked for a bit over 2 hours, ending up at a restaurant in town for breakfast of idli (rice cakes) and dosas (crispy savory pancakes). Very yummy.

Every full moon thousands of Indians come by the busload from all over to walk clockwise around Arunachala. On full moons that are considered particularly auspicious the road is so filled with people that going with the crowd is the only option. On the February full moon we set off to walk part way around the mountain and then branch off and go have dinner, not being up for a 14.5 km all-night walk! There are many small temples along the way where people worship and pray and dance around flames, and then continue walking. Crowds and crowds of people, most barefoot, and all with the same purpose – the ritual full-moon circumambulation of the great Mt Arunachala. It felt like a party, though I imagine that after 10 km or so the mood changes. We only walked for 1 or 2 kilometers (just to get a little taste of it) before branching off.

We went to Puducherry (formerly Pondicherry, and still known as Pondy) for the day. It’s by the sea – it was so wonderful to be by the water again even if we didn’t go in. We wandered around the old French quarter – so different from the rest of the town, and from Tiru. (Pondy was ruled by the French before independence.) And discovered pokodas: deep-fried vegy balls that are serious yum – the Indian equivalent of fries maybe, but way nicer.

Our days are quiet and slow – we really have slowed down here, partly because I’m still not well, though that’s another story. We laze around home – reading (books and stuff on the net), having naps and doing small essentials like making meals. Once a day we do the hot and dusty 20 minute walk to town – a combined trip for meditation in the ashram and grocery shopping.

Grocery shopping is done in a variety of small stores depending on who has what available. Vegetables commonly available (though we don’t necessarily eat them all) are potatoes, carrots, onions, cabbage, tomatoes, eggplant, green beans, okra, cucumber, beets, green onions, and limp green leaves (hard to say what they are really). I’ve seen cauliflower maybe 3 or 4 times. Only once did it look fresh enough to buy. Same goes for broccoli. Lots of good fruit – papaya, the best bananas I’ve had in years, pineapple, oranges, apples, watermelon, limes, lemons, grapes and pomegranite. We buy boxed milk (the safest) and can actually get rice cakes, good non-wheat pasta, and good boxed fruit juice. We eat out occasionally, but mostly we eat at home, and eat well. Lots of salads. All fruit and vegetables go straight into a bowl of water with some grapefruit seed extract to disinfect them from anything that may be on the skin.

There's no garbage collection so we take our garbage down the road to a kind of dump at one end of a large playing field on the way to town.

Or to another dump at the other end of the playing field,

where it gets recycled

Eventually these piles of garbage are burnt. Sometimes the cows carry on eating anyway, giving a whole new meaning to the term smoked beef :)

We spend a lot of time here:

Beggars: From the impressions I had gleaned of India over the years I had expected that there would be many beggars here. In fact there are no more beggars here in Tiru than there are in Vancouver. Initially I treated them the same as I treated the beggars in Vancouver; largely ignoring them and occasionally feeling compelled and/or inspired and/or open hearted enough to give one or other of them some money. I have been aware for a long time of a small but persistent inner contraction each time I would see a beggar, as if I somehow had to arm myself against them. Then one day last week I suddenly saw it in a whole new light.

It appears that we have choices in life. According to the choices made some people sink, some swim. Some thrive, some barely survive. Some make “good” choices, others, not so much. But where we apparently don’t have a choice is the circumstances we are born into, and the circumstances we are born into have a huge impact on the range of choices available to us later in life. So according to our circumstances, when we grow up we get the best kind of job we can. It suddenly occurred to me that beggars spend all day asking people for money. That’s their job. That’s the best they were able to come up with given their circumstances. Of course fund-raisers also have the same job – asking people for money, usually including their own salary, but it’s all dressed up in a much more attractive and socially acceptable package. Anyway I suddenly saw begging in a completely different light. These people are just doing their job. I was also faced with what I knew – that for me to give 10 rupees to every beggar I saw every day would be nothing for me. Nothing. Ten rupees is 20 cents! Why on earth was I being so tight? So now when I go out I carry a pocket full of 10 rupee notes and give one to anyone who asks. Don calls it my Lady Bountiful money. It feels great!

Next blog: (don’t want to scare people, I’m not that sick) two days in the international hospital in Chennai – overwhelming experience. And Don’s story of a massage in Tiru.


Blogger Peggy Douglas said...

oh my! you write so well! can't wait for the next installment. I am keeping you in my thoughts and hope you are well on the mend next time we hear from you.


February 26, 2012 at 9:58 AM  
Blogger Kate said...

I was taken aback by the garbage disposal story. I am inspired by your insight about beggars and begging. I am hoping your stay in the hospital means that whatever's been making you feel unwell has been dealt with by now and you're completely recovered or at least well on the way.

February 26, 2012 at 11:04 AM  
Blogger Alison said...

Hi Peggy - thanks for your comments. So glad you're enjoying the blog. I think I'm on the mend. Diagnosis has been difficult, in part because I was to have a CT scan of the liver and the scanner broke down just before I was about to go in! Anyway we go back to Chennai tomorrow so hopefully will get some clearer information then. Alison xoxox

Hi Kate - As I said, I think I am on the way to recovery. Hope so. The nausea has all but gone, so we'll see what tomorrow's CT scan brings. Maybe it's just some weird virus that will just run it's course. Yes the garbage situation is um.... unique isn't it. I'm sure there's garbage collection in the cities, but we're on the rural edge of a small town so no garbage collection here. Alison xoxox

February 26, 2012 at 7:31 PM  

Post a Comment

<< Home